By Richard Edwards
MATT Rawnsley has been running the gauntlet of the Worcestershire membership this week, despite delivering the county’s first appearance at Finals Day next month.
The Worcestershire CEO, in his first year in the job, tells The Cricket Paper that he’s frustrated by the allocation of just 500 tickets to the county, but knows there’s precious little he can do.
That didn’t stop a lively debate between Rawnsley and the members who have missed out on T20’s answer to Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, on the opening day of the county’s Division One clash with Lancashire at Southport on Wednesday.
Although he did all he could to sweet-talk those who may be forced to watch the Pears’ Finals Day progress on a big screen at New Road.
“The allocation is a bit of a nightmare,” he says. “The 500 tickets that we get just doesn’t go far enough – it’s not enough to go around. It’s a real shame on Finals Day that, other than the people who have bought in advance, only two per cent of the crowd will be supporting a team there.
“I picked up the 500 tickets, we have to buy them face value, then we have staff and players who have an allocation out of that. Then we’ve got other people like sponsors and commercial partners, committee vice-presidents, who do a lot of work unpaid for the club, who also get some.
“The rest then go on general sale. They went on sale today (Wednesday) and they were gone in two hours. There has been a lot of frustration from members who couldn’t get through on the phone-lines but then what can you do – how do they expect us to do it?
“I’m sure it’s the same with every county, it’s first come, first served. It’s like trying to get tickets for the Olympics, I guess. I’m pretty comfortable that we did what we thought was right but I’m sure a lot of Worcestershire supporters aren’t happy about it.”
That frustration is understandable given the number of years that Worcestershire have had to wait to contest T20’s end of season bonanza.
Their appearance – sealed with a win over Gloucestershire – crowns a spectacular year for Worcestershire in short-format cricket, with the county having topped the North Group in the Royal London Cup earlier in the season.
A Lord’s final place was denied them by Kent who squeaked home against them at New Road but a trip to Edgbaston is ample compensation for that. Indeed, Rawnsley believes although the pull of a Lord’s final is still a major motivator for county players up and down the country, the majority of supporters would probably now give Finals Day equal billing.
“I would think Edgbaston could sell out Finals Day twice over,” he says. “The Lord’s final still has that kudos and it still holds a lot of emotional attachment for players, it’s on a lot of bucket-lists. There’s no place quite like Lord’s but from a ticket sales point of view it doesn’t have the same draw that it used to have. Finals day is now huge.”